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2019 East/West Shrine Game Preview

A look at the six MWC players need to show at the event.

NCAA Football: Fresno State at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 college football season is over but over the next few weeks, post-season bowls will be occurring. Mountain West alums are taking part in the Tropical Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game, and the Senior Bowl. This post will focus on the East-West Shrine Game.

The 2018 college football season is over, but over the next few weeks, post-season bowls will be occurring. Mountain West alums are taking part in the Tropicana Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game, and the Senior Bowl. This post will focus on the Tropicana Bowl.

These events are used primarily as camps with a game at the end. Invited players get officially measured and weighed upon checking in. Then, there are a few days of practices with NFL coaches. The practice time for players is really at the heart of these events.

This is due to the number of time players and coaches can spend together observing play and honing their craft collaboratively. It gives the players a chance to be looked at by coaches who know the NFL game. What better way to know where and how to improve than to hear it from the source. Receiving this feedback can give the players an edge as they head into their training for the NFL combine or their respective Pro-day.

Finally, and somewhat related, this gives players a chance to stand out. If a player was overshadowed on his team by other talented individuals, wasn’t featured in his offense, or in the case of those in this article, playing in a Group of 5 conference, they have the opportunity to open the eyes of the coaches with their play and jump onto the radar before draft time. While the combine and pro-days are also good opportunities for this, the more chances of coaches seeing one play and compete, the better position they put themselves in.

Seven players from the Mountain West are participating in the East-West Shrine Game this year. Below we will provide a brief description of each player and what kind of showing they need to improve their draft stock.

East-West Shrine Schedule:

  • Monday January 14th: Practices
  • Tuesday January 15th: Practices
  • Wednesday January 16th: Practices
  • Thursday January 17th: Practices
  • Saturday January 19th: The Game. 3:00 PM (Eastern Time) Kickoff. Tropicana Field, St Petersburg Florida.

The Players:

Note: The weaknesses or questions described about each player below aren’t necessarily the views of the contributors or site, but rather what could be questions or concerns NFL scouts or talent-elevators or the media have about them, which are still worth discussing as they can have ramifications.

QB Brett Rypien (Boise State)

(Contribution by Zach Ballard)

Rypien had an illustrious Boise State career, if it weren’t for Kellen Moore, he would likely be regarded as the greatest quarterback in Boise State history. However, Rypien is probably going to do something that not even the great Kellen Moore could do, get drafted to the NFL. Rypien has an excellent touch on the deep ball and has had a high completion percentage his entire college career.

Rypien will have to prove that he can perform in high-pressure situations. While he doesn’t throw a ton of interceptions, he tends to throw them when he is forcing things. Rypien has a lot of what NFL teams look for: a high IQ, strong arm, great pocket presence. Scouts probably wish Rypien was an inch or two taller and had more mobility, but that shouldn’t be enough to keep Rypien off of an NFL roster in 2019. Rypien’s draft projections have been all over the place, but he will likely be a day three pick and land somewhere between the fourth and sixth round.

QB Marcus McMaryion (Fresno State)

(Contribution by godogs13)

For Marcus McMaryion, the biggest thing is that he’s a player who doesn’t make mistakes. Outside of a really weird performance in the bowl game, he only had 2INTs on the season. Not to mention completing almost 70% of his passes, good for 5th in the country. He was pretty much built for Kalen DeBoer’s offense, would should make him a great fit for an NFL team. The current Fresno State offense is a very well designed West Coast offense, including Marcus being able to use his legs when needed. He’s definitely not a runner first, but he knows when the best time is to take off and run. He pitched in 8 rushing touchdowns this season, to go along with his 25 passing ones. He didn’t quite hit the heights of Derek Carr’s passing, but 3,500 yards passing is the best a QB has done at Fresno State since 2013.

Like Keesean, the biggest thing Marcus needs in the Shrine game is getting to be in front of scouts, and going up against top players. Both were excellent in their time at Fresno State, but it’s hard to get the same kind of exposure as a west coast G5 team compared to a big program in the southeast. I’m sure both players will put on their best show in the Shrine practices with NFL coaches. If Marcus does get drafted, I see him as a late round guy that a team will take a flyer on. He can definitely be successful at the next level, but it’s up to a team taking the chance on him

WR KeeSean Johnson (Fresno State)

(Contribution by godogs13)

The do-it-all star wide receiver for the past few seasons for the Bulldogs, Keesean Johnson has a chance to really stand out throughout this week. He’s tall, well-rounded and polished as a route-runner, and his production speaks for itself.

The biggest thing for Keesean is getting in front of scouts and playing against high-level competition. He is a great possession receiver, evidenced by the fact that he had receptions in 50 straight games. But he hasn’t been as effective against high level competition as he is against MWC competition. He has improved his stats every season in Fresno, which is always what coaches want to see. He did also end his career as the Fresno State leader in nearly every category. Considering that the guys he passed for those records are Ron Rivers and Davante Adams, that’s pretty good company to be in. Both were NFL draft picks, and I’d expect to see Keesean get drafted as well. I’d peg him more as an early Day 3 sort of pick, probably the highest of the Fresno State picks. If there’s definitely something that can be said about the guy, he’s the exact definition of a team player. He stayed with the team through the terrible times, and got to experience the two fantastic years under Jeff Tedford as a star receiver.

OL Ryan Pope (SDSU)

Pope was the prototypical Aztec offensive linemen. He excelled as driving back opponents in order to initiate the run game. His has incredible size, standing at 6’7” and an athletic frame that weighs in around 315 pounds. He had the most experience over at right tackle, and that’s likely where he projects best as an NFL offensive lineman.

Pope was in and out of the starting lineup during his time at San Diego State. He will need to demonstrate consistency during the practices and the game to cast away any doubts about him and his abilities. Also, since the Aztec offense is extremely run-heavy, displaying the ability to be in pass-protection for more snaps each game will be crucial.

K John Barron III (SDSU)

Barron III finishes the year as one of the top kickers going into the NFL draft. If you watched any NFL games, you know that quality kickers will be in high demand in one way or another. He had a great year; kicking 17-22 on field goals in 2018, including a perfect 5-5 in field goals 50 yards or longer.

At a position where consistency is vital, Barron appears to fit that bill. He will need be nearly perfect while participating in practices and games if he wants to cement his status as a kicker who teams want to spend a draft pick on. If he doesn’t kick well, then he’ll likely still be an UDFA. He’s projected as a Day 3 selection and this week will probably make or break that.

WR Ron’quavion Tarver (Utah State)

(Contribution from Alex Eiden)

Tarver was the #1 receiver for the Aggies, and it shows in his stats: 709 receiving yards and eight receiving TDs, both of which led the team. He’s got the ability to go up and get the ball with the best of them. He’s on the lanky side, so he needs to add some size and muscle in order to go up against NFL cornerbacks. Tarver has speed and he’s got good hands, he can for sure make it to the next level.

Most mock NFL drafts have Tarver either going in the 7th round or even going undrafted entirely. That outlook can change with a good performance in this game. If he can continue to go up and get 50/50 balls and if he can prove that he can size up against bigger bodies, Tarver will definitely impress scouts.

DB Andrew Wingard (Wyoming)

(Contribution from FatDuckUW)

Andrew Wingard is leaving the Mountain West as the all-time tackles leader in conference history (tied with New Mexico’s Carmen Messina). At Wyoming, Wingard was a defensive leader who had a nose for the football. What Andrew Wingard, needs to show in the East/West Shrine Game is that he still stands out as a player who can get to the ball and make tackles/plays. Coming from Wyoming, the knock will be the level of competition. The scouts will want to know if Wingard can still make plays against NFL talent. Can Wingard keep up with the speed out there? Is he strong enough to get off blocks or quick enough to avoid them? Is Wingard big and strong enough to tackle and defend some of the guys he’ll be up against?

Coming out of high school in Colorado, Wingard was ignored by the in-state schools. Colorado, Colorado State, and Air Force did not bother recruiting him. Wingard was viewed as likely too small or too slow. He went to Wyoming and proved the doubters wrong. He also has bulked up quite a bit from his high school days. Still, he’ll face similar doubts again as he prepares for the NFL. Wingard needs to prove that he can tackle a RB like Jordan Ellis (UVA) at the line of scrimmage. Wingard needs to show that he won’t be a liability in pass coverage going against a QB like David Blough (Purdue) throwing to a WR like DaMarkus Lodge (Ole Miss). The East/West Shrine Game is that opportunity.

Your Turn: What do you think each of these players needs to do show this weekend? Which do you see as legitimate draft prospects at this time? Let us know in the comment section.